South Shields leads the way in sustainable housing with award hat-trick

Sinclair Meadows carbon negative community - Image courtesy of Four Housing GroupSinclair Meadows carbon negative community – Image courtesy of Four Housing Group

The UK’s first carbon negative social housing development in South Tyneside has won not one but three coveted housing awards. Sinclair Meadows, a development by not-for-profit housing provider, Four Housing Group, located in South Shields, claimed the top prize at the Housing Excellence Awards on Wednesday [15 May] to be named the ‘Best New Affordable Housing Scheme’ in the UK.

Earlier this week, the ground-breaking development beat six other shortlisted projects to win the ‘Innovation’ category at the Constructing Excellence in the North East Awards.

Further adding to the development’s success, Sinclair Meadows has also been awarded a spot in the top 50 affordable housing developments in the UK league. The exclusive list is compiled by Inside Housing, the industry’s leading magazine.

Commenting on the accolades, Dawn Keightley, Group Director of Operations at Four Housing Group, said:

“The vision from the outset was to create a social housing development that was not only affordable but would also be the first to achieve carbon negativity. This means the homes actually create more energy than they use, making Sinclair Meadows one of the most eco-friendly developments in the UK.

“Many people have invested a lot of time and effort in making Sinclair Meadows become a reality for our residents. We are thrilled with the recognition from Housing Excellence, Constructing Excellence and Inside Housing; it’s fantastic to get recognition for a job well done.”

The UK Government has a target to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Housing stock is responsible for over a quarter of CO2 emissions in the UK, driving a requirement to reduce housing emissions and home energy use.

By 2016, all new build housing in the UK will be legally required to be carbon zero. Sinclair Meadows goes beyond that to achieve carbon negative status, meeting the community’s need for 100 per cent affordable housing while leading the way in the creation of truly sustainable homes.

Decerna, part of the UK’s National Renewable Energy Centre group of companies, created the original energy strategy in the early design phase of Sinclair Meadows, and worked with the architect, Fitz Architects, to create dynamic thermal models.

The development has the ability to wipe out the carbon footprint created during its construction within 2.8 years and the houses generate more electricity than they use from the largest array of solar panels on a domestic dwelling, feeding electricity back into the grid.

More than 500 applications were received by prospective tenants wanting to live in one of either the nine three-bedroom houses or 12 two-bedroom apartments. This number was reduced to just 21 successful applicants who before taking residency, attended a training programme to learn more about the daily tasks involved in a carbon negative lifestyle.

Tenants learned about using the rainwater harvesting system to flush toilets, and programming appliances to operate during the day to make the most efficient use of energy from the solar panels.

Commenting on the shortlisting process, Stuart Macdonald, editor of Inside Housing and Andy Rose, chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency, issued a joint statement saying:

“A total of 146,420 homes were completed in the UK last year – of these 36,900 were built by housing associations or councils, according to government statistics.

“More than 6,000 homes were entered, so choosing just 50 schemes was no mean feat. Four Housing Group and its partners should be very proud of this achievement.”

According to Inside Housing, what made Sinclair Meadows stand out as a clear winner is the fact the development is the beginning of a major redevelopment of the area. The estate sits on the perimeter of planned regeneration including 400 new homes, community facilities and shops, while also contributing to South Tyneside Council’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

The pioneering South Shields homes, funded by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and Four Housing Group, were developed by Four Housing Group in partnership with South Tyneside Council and environmental charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, Galliford Try Partnerships North and Fitz Architects.

EU Anti-dumping duties for imports of PV Panels and components

In September 2012, the European Commission initiated an anti-dumping investigation on solar panel imports from China. The enquiry is due to publish it’s findings in June 2013 but the UK Solar Trade Association (STA), said this week that they believe that the Commission has already decided to impose significant import duties to any panels purchased from China by as much as 67%.

The anti-dumping enquiry was initiated at the request of EU ProSun*, which represents some of the European photovoltaic manufacturers who felt they couldn’t compete financially with the Chinese manufacturers due to, they say, the large subsidies provided to the Chinese companies by the Chinese government.

link to EC investigation:

What makes this case of significance to the UK is that Anti-dumping duties are strongly opposed in many quarters, notably by importers and installers, who support cheap panel imports from China. As the UK has only a small PV manufacturing base it’s progress in PV installations, fueled by the DECC’s innovative FIT scheme, has benefited by the steep fall in prices of panels of imports, primarily from China.

STA CEO Paul Barwell said:

“These duties, if imposed, will damage the UK solar market, particularly the large scale ground-mount sector. It seems absurd that Commissioner De Gucht is supporting these proposals, when the duties will actually result in a net reduction in EU solar jobs, restrict the growth of the solar market, and damage Europe’s chances of meeting its 2020 renewable targets.”

“Solar power has shown impressive cost reductions in recent years, enabling Government to set a pathway of gradually reducing subsidies. However, the cost increases resulting from these duties will throw the UK off course from its solar roadmap. We will continue lobbying DECC and BIS to ensure the UK votes ‘no’ to these proposed duties.”


From the other EU countries, there is concern EU tariffs would be damaging for efforts to develop clean energy utilising photovoltaic panels which are proving to be a popular technology to aid EU countries to meet their 2020 targets. Others fear retaliation by Beijing who could apply import tariffs to other types of equipment imported into China, the number 2 trade partner of Europe.

The preliminary findings from the investigation are officially due in June 2013.

*EU ProSun’s website describes themselves as an initiative of European photovoltaic manufacturers who united in order to promote PV technology and the sustainable growth of the European solar industry, as well as urge the European Commission to restore a level playing field with China. They also lobbied for a similar investigation for solar glass which was launched in March 2013.